Mets Moving Past Lowe?

According to John Harper of the Daily News, the Mets did not expect there to be so much demand for Derek Lowe, and that they’re moving on to cheaper options. From the article:

The Mets aren’t conceding anything yet, but privately they admit they didn’t expect Lowe to be in such high demand, and they worry that with the Yankees and Red Sox in the hunt, they may have to lower their sights for a starting pitcher.

Huh. First of all, how could the Mets underestimate the value of a veteran sinkerballer who hasn’t missed a start in seven years, and won 106 games during that span? Further, how could they think Lowe wouldn’t be heavily courted, considering that 29 MLB teams can’t afford C.C. Sabathia? Unlike A.J. Burnett and Ben Sheets, Lowe is a sure thing. He may be older than those two oft-injured fireballers, but not by much. People tend to forget that Burnett will be 32 next year, and Sheets is entering his thirties. Further, in the combined 18 years of MLB between Burnett and Sheets, you can only find one season of more than 13 wins. In contrast, Lowe has AVERAGED 15 wins per season since he became a full-time starter.

I find it hard to believe that the Mets have been blindsided by the demand for Lowe. What’s more believable is that they’re not comfortable offering Lowe — nor any other pitcher — more than three years. This would be an acceptable stance if the Mets were gushing with near-ready pitching prospects in their farm system. Unfortunately, after Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell, they don’t have anyone who projects to be better than a fourth or fifth starter within the next three years. That’s a fact. And there are enough scouts who aren’t sold on Niese and Parnell, either. So the Mets won’t be able to fill their rotation needs from within the organization for at least a few years. Further, the 2010 free agent class is filled with injury-prone starters (Rich Harden, Jason Schmidt, Mark Mulder, Eric Bedard), with the top starters being John Lackey and Brett Myers. Looking ahead a year, Lackey might command a 5-year, $80M contract. Will the Mets pay that premium?

Harper also suggests that it would take Ryan Church to pry away Edwin Jackson from the Rays — I agree. It makes me laugh when people suggest that the Mets can get one of the Rays’ young starters in return for Aaron Heilman. Sure, Jackson has been inconsistent and Andy Sonnanstine appears to have ordinary stuff, but they both won 13+ games in the AL East and are only 25 years old. You don’t get talent like that in return for a 30-year-old middle reliever with a 5+ ERA. More to the point, the Rays don’t need arms, they need bats. They have a sudden surplus of pitching, and are looking to deal from that strength to find a corner outfielder with some pop.

If in fact the Red Sox or Yankees (or some other team) sign Lowe, the Mets may have to go the trade route to fill their starting rotation. If the price is too high or too risky for Lowe, then the cost for A.J. Burnett has to be way out of the Mets’ league. From all reports, there’s no interest in getting into the Sabathia bidding, and I don’t see the Mets going after Sheets, who at this point is riskier than Burnett. The next-best starter available is Jon Garland, who despite a high win total gets hit hard — opposing batters hit .303 against him last year — and probably isn’t worth the many millions he’ll get on the open market. After Garland, the quality drops off significantly — the next tier is Braden Looper, Randy Wolf, and Livan Hernandez.

Oh, and of course there is Oliver Perez — who is starting to look a lot more appealing than when the offseason began.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude November 24, 2008 at 4:06 pm
    I think the Mariners are going to be the team every team is going to have to beat this offseason when trying to sign starting pitchers. Not because the M’s are gunning for every available starting pitcher this winter, but because of the horrible contract they handed to Carlos Silva last year. 4 years, $48 million. Every starting pitcher is now going to evaluate their own worth according to Silva’s. So, someone like Derek Lowe can look at his stastical history compared to Silva’s, and say “if Silva is worth $12 million a season, I’ve got to be worth $15-$20 million.” Of course, Silva’s contract looks like chump changed compared to what Barry Zito undeservedly recieved 2 years ago, and which is now being used as a catch-phrase by all free agent pitchers (I’m looking for a Zito-like contract). Naturally, these pitchers aren’t factoring in their age (Lowe), or injury history (Sheets, Burnett) when making their demands, but they want someone to show them the money regardless.

    You can’t help but blame these pitchers for setting their asking prices so high – hell, if Zito and Silva can get the contracts they got, why can’t Lowe, Burnett, Sheets, Ollie, or Garland? Still, I find it very hard to believe that there will be 6 (counting Sabathia) free agent starting pitchers who all get signed to 4+ year, $60+ million contracts in the same offseason. Especially when the majority of them don’t deserve to receive them. Sabathia will get it, Burnett will get it from the Yanks or Jays, and Ollie will probably get it from someone who sees a young, hard-throwing lefty and gets giddy, but the rest? I really hope owners and GMs win the waiting game and get these pitchers to lower their asking prices in fear that they won’t have a job if they stick to their demands. Lofty expectations, I know. But if every team is penny-pinching these days, and no one wants to duplicate the Giants and Mariners’ mistakes, I would hope frugality wins out this winter.

  2. Micalpalyn November 25, 2008 at 2:36 pm
    Just a rebuttal but, given that Silva and Zito are not exemplifiying their values does not then devalue the class?

    Yes Lowe is a consistent winnner, he should get paid. Ollie is a 14 gqame winner with age on his side. But i think a team can use Zito as a measuring oin their counter offers. I think Lohse is a better measure for this general market too.

  3. Timo November 25, 2008 at 5:02 pm
    We need pitching (starting and relief). If it would take Ryan Church to get a young pitcher from TB, then i would do it. I really like Church and wouldn’t want to see him leave, BUT i think it would be easier to fill an outfield role instead of a pitching role.
  4. joe November 26, 2008 at 11:26 pm
    Excellent point, Timo. Especially when there is a glut of outfielders available on the FA market.